"The psychological effect has come from sitting with their family all day and watching news of shelling and killing on television," said Mohammed al-Ghaziri, 38, a businessman and father of two who helped launch the program. "This creates a sense of fear because they see how their parents react."
Benghazi was at risk of being overrun by Gadhafi's forces in March before NATO aircraft pulverized tanks that would have devastated the city. Many cities in western Libya, which is mainly controlled by Gadhafi, have fared even worse: Thousands have reportedly been killed.
Children in Benghazi have had little else to do other than soak in the painful realities of war because schools have remained closed since the revolution started in mid-February, and many parents have avoided letting their kids play outside for fear they may be hurt by random gunfire, said Ghaziri.
Officials are reluctant to reopen the schools before Gadhafi steps down because many teachers and older students are volunteering as part of the rebellion, said Hana el-Gallal, who is responsible for the education sector in Benghazi.
In the meantime, Ghaziri and other residents of Benghazi's Al-Leithi neighborhood decided to set up a program at one of the public schools where children could come to draw, sing, and play.
"We want the children to forget about the war and try to live a normal life," said Asma al-Sedawi, 18, an English student who is volunteering as an art teacher. "We started this place so children could feel like they are in another country, another world."
The program started last month with about 100 students from the ages of 3 to 14 and has already more than doubled in size, said Ghaziri. There is one other program like it in a neighborhood in downtown Benghazi, and four more should start soon in other parts of the city, he said.
One of Sedawi's pupils is Leena, 12, whose soft-spoken nature contrasts with the violent images in her drawings. She said they show "the crimes of Gadhafi killing his own people."
"I'm really sad that we can't go to school, but I'm OK with it because we did this to get rid of Gadhafi and have a better life," said Leena, dressed in a white headscarf, black jacket, and jeans.
When many of the children first arrived at the program - which runs three hours a day, six days a week - they simply scribbled violently, using dark colors like black and brown, said Sedawi. Many have moved on to draw more benign images of things such as rebel flags, boats, and flowers, she said.
The program also encourages children to play soccer and engage in other healthy physical activity, which has also been affected by the fighting.
"When the kids first came, I noticed many of them talking about weapons and playing games that mimic war," said Tarek al-Mahjub, 29, a physical education teacher who is volunteering with the program. "Hopefully we can get them back to their normal state."
As Mahjub spoke, dozens of children filled the school's courtyard, some racing after each other in games of tag, others shouting a mix of rhymes and patriotic chants.
"Libya is free! Gadhafi go away!" shouted one group of girls ages 9 to 11.
"Misrata and Benghazi are brothers!" shouted a group of the youngest children, referring to a western city that has been besieged by Gadhafi's forces for over two months.
The children were led by a young volunteer blowing a green whistle. A few of them wore T-shirts, hats, and scarves with rebel flags on them. But most were dressed like children in any Western country. One girl had a pink backpack that was far too big for her. Another had a blue knapsack with a brown stuffed bear sewn on the back.
"I was sad when school closed, but now that this program has opened, it has cheered me up," said Abdel-Rahim Mohammed, 11, as he took a break from running around with the other children.